We all get sick occasionally, right? And if we hold down jobs, that sometimes means taking a day or two off work. If we get really sick, or have a profoundly ill family member, that may mean taking off more than a few days.
Some of us are fortunate enough to work for companies that still pay us while we’re nursing a fever or a family member. It’s a benefit the businesses factor into their costs, and employees often weigh when deciding whether to accept a job offer.
We wish every private company offered paid sick leave. We think that kind of a policy leads to a more productive workplace by generating loyalty among employees and making a business more competitive when it tries to attract top workers.
We don’t, however, think city officials should require businesses in their community to provide paid sick days. That benefit should be a matter negotiated between employees and employers.
In Fort Worth and much of North Texas, where unemployment has dropped to 3.4 percent, employers would be well-advised to add sick leave to their compensation packages or face difficulty in attracting talent. But it should be the employer’s decision.
We’re addressing this issue because support for mandatory sick leave is gaining steam in a number of Texas cities.
In February, the Austin City Council passed an ordinance requiring that companies with 15 or more employees allow workers to accrue up to eight days of sick leave. Workers will earn one hour off for every 30 hours worked. Companies with fewer employees will be required to provide less sick leave.
Monday, the state’s largest business group, the Texas Association of Business, was among plaintiffs arguing in an Austin court that the city’s ordinance is illegal.
We are not aware of similar efforts in Arlington, Fort Worth or other Tarrant communities, but we caution officials and citizens here to consider the consequences if they decide to move forward.
At least seven states and 28 cities or local jurisdictions have adopted sick-leave laws, but in some cases businesses have responded by cutting employee costs in other ways.
A group that tracks entry-level employment says that after San Francisco passed a sick leave law in 2004, “nearly 30 percent of the lowest-paid employees in the city reported layoffs or reduced hours at their place of work.”
Federal law currently guarantees some basic rights including minimum wage; requirements for health and safety standards in a workplace; and family leave of up to 12 weeks a year to deal with family illness, pregnancy or care of a child.
Heaven knows, living on minimum wage alone is next to impossible. Proponents of mandatory sick pay also rightly point out that while a business must provide family leave it doesn’t have to compensate workers while they’re away.
But we believe our economy should dictate additional mandates.
Yes, businesses as well as their employees benefit with reasonable paid sick leave. We just don’t think it's up to our city governments to require it.